Zealous Zodiac Characteristics: Basic Character Templates

canstockphoto11107671Sometimes when creating characters, it helps to begin with a character template. There’s a great set of character traits described in the Zodiac. Each sign has specific personality traits that describe who a person is and the type of emotions they are likely to display.

Capricorn

A Capricorn is hardworking, responsible, reliable, loyal, sincere and has a strong will power. They also tend to be introverted, slightly obstinate, short tempered and have difficulty accepting authority. Capricorns are very calm individuals. They do not become agitated easily. Capricorns like being leaders in the workplace and they do not take orders from others well at all. You may find a Capricorn unleashing a sharp tongue lashing if you try to take control of a project. In matters of the heart, Capricorns are very romantic. Dinners by candlelight and flowers for no reason are qualities you can expect from a Capricorn. Capricorns like to be wanted and needed.

Aquarius

Aquarius is friendly, affable, intelligent, kind, compassionate and practical. Weaknesses of the Aquarius are being unpredictable, adamant, dislike towards making commitments and hating adhering to conventions. Aquarius are generally soft spoken but can demonstrate the ability to change up now and again. They love things that are new and enjoy experimenting with new ideas and concepts. Creativity flows through their veins. Aquarius tend to have a large number of friends though normally not many close or best buddies. They are friendly and nice and enjoy being around other people. Their flighty and ever-changing personality make getting close with an Aquarius next to impossible. One minute you may be an Aquarius’ best friend and the next just someone who is in the way.

Pisces

Strengths of the Pisces include being intuitive, empathetic, uninterested in material things and having a sharp memory. Weaknesses of the Pisces include being emotional or sensitive, and prone to wistfulness, mood swings and inflexibility. Greed in not a quality Pisces possess. They are not materialistic people. Pisces are well aware of how the world works but they also know their place. Pisces either run with the flow of the people around them or they run against it. They are either one extreme or the other there is no in between. Pisces are calm and cool and rarely lose their tempers. Pisces can charm your socks off without blinking an eye. In the event of troubling situations, Pisces have the ability to remain calm and rational. They think through situations rather than through reacting impulsively. Pisces are great lovers of music and art. You may find a Pisces in an orchestra or crafting a new picture for an art gallery. Pisces try to help everyone around them. They dislike their friends being unhappy and they will bend over backwards to be helpful.

Aries

Adventurous, energetic, courageous, and confident are the strengths of Aries. Weaknesses include being self-centered, short-tempered, impulsive, and impatient. Aries are known to be friendly and outgoing people. You would notice an Aries in a room full of people since they would be the ones talking and introducing themselves. Aries stand up for what they believe in. You will find them rooting for the underdog or defending and assisting those with weaker personality traits. Aries only are aware of their wants and needs. They are not selfish they just don’t always realize they are putting someone else out.Though an Aries can be pushed to have a temper, it normally won’t last long. Seldom will you come across an Aries that holds a grudge. Forgive and forget is a motto most Aries live by.

Taurus

The Bull symbolizes strong and silent, and this is exactly how a Taurus is said to be. Until you really get to know a Taurus you will probably not see his or her true self. Strengths of Taurus include being compassionate, dependable, loyal, reliable, and also being strong both physically and emotionally. Stubbornness, aggressiveness, sensitivity and a dislike when faced with change are all weaknesses associated with a Taurus. Taurus are very stubborn individuals and once their minds are made up, swaying them even a little is next to impossible. If you do not try to push, Taurus folks will come across as being laid back and reserved. Take heed though because if you anger a Taurus, it is likely that you might find a violent temper. However, Taurus tempers generally will not flare until they are pushed. Taurus make wonderful friends, and whenever you need them they will certainly be some of the first ones there. Taurus know exactly how to brighten the day of friends in need. Don’t count on a Taurus ever calling on you to return the favor. They are very in tune with their emotions and rarely display them. Taurus are loyal and will stand beside a friend until the bitter end.

Gemini

Jovial, good communication skills, inquisitiveness and flexibility are all strengths of the Gemini. Weaknesses of the Gemini include selfishness, restlessness, confusing personalities and difficulty being on time. Gemini change their minds as often as they change their underwear. Boredom quickly makes a Gemini turn and look for other avenues of excitement and entertainment. Gemini have little to no patience. Ironically, they do not flourish in environments where indecisive people are present. Gemini can talk themselves in and out of a situation all in the same breath. They do not stay in one place too long. In most disagreements, Gemini will come out the victor with an extraordinary ability to use words in their favor. Falling in love with a Gemini can be exciting and dangerous. With their dual personalities Gemini keep their love life spicy. In matters of the heart, hang on tight because you are in for an ever-changing ride. Don’t hold them to a time schedule as something can catch their eye and cause them to be late in a heartbeat.

Cancer

Cancer strengths are adaptability, loyalty, genuine attachment to a family, and empathy. Weaknesses of Cancer include moodiness, sensitivity, and emotional outbursts and indecisiveness. People assigned the sign of Cancer are genuinely moody and have ever changing emotions. One minute they may be laughing and having a good time and the next minute you may find them mad at the world. No one single emotion or personality can label a Cancer. Cancer will often masquerade their emotions with humor. Laughing is a common disguise used by Cancer to hide signs of depression. Cancer will set their aspirations high. Constant struggles for success and achievement lay beneath the exterior shell of Cancer.

Leo

Strengths of a Leo include kindness, big-heartedness, an energetic nature, optimism, honesty and loyalty. The weaknesses of a Leo are prone to jealousy, possessiveness, egotism or a more dominating personality. Leos dislike being bored and enjoy being around many people as they are at home playing the role of a leader. When Leos love, they love with all their hearts, and they take what they believe is theirs. They enjoy dishing out tons of advice and they expect that you should heed their advice as truth. The best way to tame the proud lion is to feed into their opinion of themselves. You can easily have the roaring lion eating out of the palm of your hand with kind words and praise. A Leo will tell it like it is – always. They have difficulty holding their tongues whether they are right or not. Leos will mean what they say and say what they mean. They speak their opinion whether you want to hear it or not so be prepared. Leo prospers most when in a loving relationship. You will rarely find a Leo alone. Leos automatically take on the leading role in a relationship even though they may complain now and again about having too much responsibility. They really do not feel that way they just growl now and again.

Virgo

Strengths of Virgo are perfectionist, realistic, practical, dependable, sincere and patient. Weaknesses of Virgo include being way too critical, restless, and they lack demonstrativeness and tend to push themselves too much. Virgo also tend to be quiet and family oriented people. Though you may notice a Virgo quietly off to the side, you can bet that he or she is simply taking in the details of every little thing. Virgos do not often put themselves in crowded situations, as they prefer to socialize one on one. Virgos are perfectionists meaning everything has its place. Virgos live in reality and seldom daydream. They take life for what it is and don’t set themselves up for disappointment. Virgos are workaholics and even in their work they expect and demand perfection from themselves. From their clothes to their homes, everything must be perfect. Much time is spent worrying about whether things are correct. Virgos are tidy and neat freaks. Dirt and sloppiness can cause a Virgo to offer a harsh tongue-lashing. A Virgo can also be a wonderful friend. Knowing what to say and when to say it is a trait most Virgos possess.

Libra

The strengths of a Libra are patience, balance, gregarious, loving, affectionate, cheerful, energetic and a social nature. Weaknesses of the Libra include indecisiveness, carelessness, prone to indulgence, and being overly emotional and sensitive. You will find a Libra to be extremely nice and polite. Libras love being around people and often serve as mediators between quarreling parties. A Libra will most always appear cheerful. Libras are very independent individuals and do not take orders well. Libras are intelligent and excellent listeners. They can also be naive and restless. Libras are often as confused as the people surrounding them by their wishy-washy traits. A Libra can bring laughter to the dreariest of circumstances. They are happiest when the people surrounding them are happy as well. They do not like for friends to be sad or upset. Libras take their time weighing pros and cons of a decision before committing one way or the other.

Scorpio

Strengths of the Scorpio include loyalty, trustworthiness, passionate, charismatic, mystifying, caring and patience. Weaknesses of Scorpio are stubbornness, becoming jealous easily, and being overly sensitive and egotistical. Scorpios have the ability to appear as though they are staring through people. Their gaze seems to penetrate the outer body and see directly into the soul. Scorpios have large egos and can stand on their own. Once they get something in their heads they can’t rest until they finish the task. Scorpios rarely let their emotions surface. They possess a sense of knowing when they are right and when they are wrong. Rarely will you notice a Scorpio playing bashful or shy. If you want an honest opinion about anything ask a Scorpio. Brutal honesty is a feature they cannot help but offer.Scorpios love with their complete hearts, but they have no tolerance for unfaithfulness. Questioning their own worth causes Scorpios to be very jealous and overly possessive especially in matters of the heart. They will stand beside the ones they love come what may, through thick and thin. You could not ask for a more loyal friend.

Sagittarius

Strengths of the Sagittarius include honesty, forthrightness, lightheartedness, intellectualism, and possession of excellent communication skills. Weaknesses of the Sagittarius are sharp tongue, prone to change, restlessness and a flirtatious nature. Sagittarius have a way with words like no other. They try to come across nice and friendly but normally end up hurting the feelings of others or just downright annoying others. They are not at all gifted with a talent for dishing out compliments. Most often compliments will come out more like insults and any attempts to correct misunderstandings are futile. Sagittarius are animal lovers and are most always the ones apt to take in homeless and stray animals that no one else would think about touching. They will nurture these outcasts back to health and prove they can be wonderful pets. Decisions of the heart take Sagittarius some time to make. They fall in love easily, but do not love lightly. A long internal struggle goes on inside the head of a Sagittarius before a decision related to commitment can be arrived at.

 

 

Yielding Yesterdays – Writing a Character History

canstockphoto18571274Does the plot create the characters or do the characters create the plot? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Every once in awhile I come up with a fun, fascinating character and I go searching for the right story in which to place that character. Then again, and more often than not, I have a plot — a specific mystery idea — and begin creating characters to bring that story to life. Ultimately, the characters will determine the structure and direction of the plot anyway. So, maybe the chicken and the egg is kind of irrelevant.

Since I write about amateur sleuths with no to very little investigative experience, their motivation and approach are very different from, say, a law enforcer or a hired P.I. The amateur sleuth must rely on unique character traits, and fall back on previous experiences that are in no way related to the murder investigation but are surprisingly useful. It’s almost as if she’s lived a lifetime of yesterdays of unique experiences that prepared her for the day when she’d have to seek out the truth in an odd and suspicious murder.

Whatever the murder, the sleuth I eventually develop must be a living, breathing personality who is capable of solving the murder and keeping the reader engaged for 300 pages. There’s a lot that goes into creating a fully-developed character but here’s where I start:

  • Where was your character born and raised?
  • Who were the parents?
  • What was the character’s childhood like?
  • What members of a family does the character have?
  • What kind of student was the character?
  • What special skills or knowledge does the character possess?
  • What hobbies did or does the character have?
  • What are some of the traits of the character – emotional, mental and physical?
  • Does the character have any quirky personality traits?
  • What kind of job or profession is the character occupied with, past and present?
  • And finally, what are some of the character’s past and present relationships?

 

 

Creating your Heroine by finding your inner Madonna

1sbdcwPgu0HlOver the weekend, I was searching the net for character ideas, and was hoping to pattern an under-developed heroine around the personality of an established celebrity. That’s when I came across this interesting quiz on a blog titled “What Madonna Are You?

I was surprised to find so many interesting personality profiles attached to one person. Obviously, Madonna changes her image and hair color with every new album, but I never noticed the personality diversity. It’s astonishing to see how different one persona has been from another, and I realized there’s a treasure trove of personality arch types here. I think you could pull three individual characters from this list into one book, and no one would ever realize they were all patterned off the Material Girl.

If you’re looking for inspiration for a female character, take a look through the list below. And, for anyone who’s curious, it turns out that I’m the “No Pants Madonna.” Who knew?

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Seven Archetypes to create a memorable villain

canstockphoto4631531It’s said that for a hero to be truly good, his enemy must be even better. Thus, a gripping story must have a well-written, memorable villain; someone who really challenges the hero and earns the reader’s respect. I’ve been considering this for weeks as I start writing a new mystery novel, and was pleasantly surprised when I saw Entertainment Weekly had published a sidebar about Villainous Archetypes. 

In the article, they list the Archetypes as:

  • The Snubbed Sibling
  • The Femme Fatale
  • The Power Monger
  • The Lethal Frenemy
  • The Vengeful One
  • The Nemesis
  • The Psychotic  (Well, I added the last two….)

Obviously there are more archetypes than those listed, and I think the really well-written villains can cross over into multiple categories. Still, this makes for a descent start.

*** WARNING SPOILERS BELOW ***

The Snubbed Sibling
Villains who are the older/younger brother or sister of the hero. They lash-out because of feelings of inadequacy, jealousy and entitlement toward their beloved sibling. In general, they feel less loved. Interesting to note, they are not always biologically related; some are half-, step- or adopted.
Examples:

  • Cain, jealous of his brother Abel, Genesis, The Bible
  • Hades, angry at his brothers Zeus & Poseidon, Greek Mythology
  • Morgana le Fey, half-sister to King Arthur, The Knights of the Round Table
  • Prince John, resentful younger brother of King Richard the Lionhearted, Robin Hood
  • Edmund, illegitimate son of Gloucester, Shakespeare’s King Lear
  • Lore, evil twin brother of Data, Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Scar, Mufasa’s jealous & resentful younger brother, Disney’s The Lion King
  • Loki, Thor’s jealous & resentful adopted brother, Marvel Comics

The Femme Fatale
A beautiful, seductive, but ultimately villainous, woman who uses the malign power of her sexuality to ensnare the hapless hero into danger. They are sly, morally ambiguous, conflicted between their needs and doing what’s “right” and often have a love/hate relationship with the Protagonist.
Examples:

  • Salome, the Christian icon of dangerous female seductiveness, The Gospels, The Bible
  • Delilah, Samson’s lover & ultimately his downfall, Judges, The Bible
  • Circe, dangerous sorceress who fell in love with Odysseus, Homer’s The Odyssey
  • Lady Macbeth, Ambitious wife of the general with her own designs on the throne, Shakespeare’s Macbeth
  • Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Sam Spade’s less than forthcoming client, Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon
  • Irene Adler – Sherlock Holmes’ romantic foil, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia
  • Cora Smith, Lana Turner’s unhappy housewife in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
  • Rose Loomis, Marilyn Monroe’s sad lover in Niagra (1953)
  • Breathless Mahoney, Madonna’s gangster moll playing Dick and Big Boy against each other in Dick Tracy (1990)
  • Catherine Trammel, Sharon Stone’s novelist with a murderous past in Basic Instinct (1992)
  • Selena Kyle, Anne Hathaway’s cat burglar in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Power Monger
Villains who seek to rule with sheer force or whose main goal is to obtain more power, any way possible. Nothing stands in their way. Above all else, they have a deep-seeded desire to surround themselves with control, authority, attention and self-imposed importance. Often this blinding, insatiable craving proves to be their downfall.
Examples:

  • King Herod the Great, committed unspeakable crimes to gratify his ambition, Matthew, The Bible
  • King Richard the Third, the treacherous king who wasn’t very nice to his family – Shakespeare’s Richard III
  • Napoleon, the Stalin-esque Berkshire Boar who always gets his way, George Orwell’s Animal Farm
  • Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo,  the top narcotics man in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather
  • Professor James Moriarty – a mathematics professor turned the world’s only consulting criminal – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes
  • Sauron – the dark lord who sought to rule Middle Earth – Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings
  • Lord Voldemort,  the dark lord who obsesses over conquering  both worlds, Muggle and Wizarding, to achieve pure blood dominance – JK Rowling’s Harry Potter
  • Jafar, the Grand Vizier who plots to possess the Genie’s lamp and rule all of Agrabah – Disney’s Aladdin
  • General Zod, after a failed attempt to take over his homeworld, this Kryptonian super villain tries to take over earth – Superman (1978), Superman II (1980), Man of Steel (2013)
  • Emperor Palpatine –  the aged, wrinkled-faced dictator of the Galactic Empire – Star Wars, the original trilogy (1977 – 1983)

The Lethal Frenemy
Frenemies are fun to write, because they are an enemy disguised as a friend. They lead the plot to the inevitable dramatic betrayal. He or she is friendly toward the Protagonist because the relationship brings benefits, but harbors feelings of resentment, rivalry or entitlement. Sometimes the Reader knows this, which creates tension and suspense as the hero stumbles dumbfounded into the Frenemy’s web. Sometimes neither the reader nor the hero realize the frenemy’s treachery, and then it’s the book’s big plot twist.
Examples:

  • Haman the Agagite, trusted ally to the King & Queen, he plots a secret massacre – Book of Esther, The Bible
  • Judas, loved Apostle, he sells Jesus’ whereabouts to the Romans – New Testament, The Bible
  • Brutus, Julius Caesar’s friend and confident and most famous assassin – Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
  • Macbeth, King Duncan’s general who plots to take the the throne for himself – Shakespeare’s Macbeth
  • George Wickham – Mr. Darcy’s childhood friend who is actually spreading gossip – Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
  • Annie Wilkes, Author Paul Sheldon’s #1 fan – Stephen King’s Misery
  • Dennis Nedry, John Hammond’s computer programmer who was secretly paid to steal dinosaur embryos, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park
  • Lucy Van Pelt, the crabby, cynical eight year old who bullies Linus and Charlie Brown – Peanuts
  • Alexandra Forrest, Glenn Close’s blackmailing, stalking and obsessive Other Woman – Fatal Attraction (1987)
  • Miranda Tate, A member of the Wayne Enterprises executive board who harbors a deep resentment toward Batman for killing her father – The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
  • Senator Palpatine – the middle-aged politician of the Galactic Republic who plays both the Jedi and the Separatist Movement to rise to power – Star Wars, the Prequel Trilogy (1999 – 2005)

The Vengeful One
Villains who commit their crimes under the premise of vengeance, whether it be for a wrong committed against them or their people. The Vengeful One is similar to a nemesis, but with a few differences:  the villain may be misinformed and only think the hero has wronged him or her, or the wrong was committed by someone entirely separate from the Hero, but the Hero must still deal with the villain’s wrath.
Examples:

  • Hera – Greek goddess known for her jealous and vengeful nature, most notably against Zeus’s lovers and offspring – Greek Mythology
  • Iago, passed over for a promotion, he makes Othello believe his wife Desdemona has been unfaithful, Shakespeare’s Othello
  • Abigail Williams, teenage maid who accuses her lover’s wife of being a witch so she can have him all to herself – Arthur Millers The Crucible
  • Michael Corleone – Mob boss who puts a hit on the abusive husband of his godson and makes a reputation for himself as being even more cunning and ruthless than his father – Mario Puzo’s The Godfather
  • Kissin’ Kate Barlow, Devastated by her black lover’s death at the hands of racists, she becomes the most feared outlaw in the west – Louis Sachar’s Holes
    Max Cady, a sadistic genius seeks vengeance against a former public defender whom he blames for his 14-year imprisonment  – Cape Fear (1960, 1991)
  • Pennywise the Dancing Clown, A monster that preys on the kids of Derry targets the adults who banished it twenty years ago as children – Stephen King’s It
  • Carrie White, an outcast, loathed and taunted by her fellow students, gets even at the school prom – Stephen King’s Carrie
  • Maleficent, after not being invited to a royal christening by the parents, she curses the infant Princess Aurora – Disney’s Sleeping Beauty
  • Lady Walthum – an aristocrat who wants revenge on Tarzan for killing her brother (at least, in her own mind) – Disney’s The Legend of Tarzan
  • Khan, a super-human madman who was exiled by Captain Kirk – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1981)
  • Freddy Krueger – a razor-fingered spirit attacks the teen children of the parents who burned him alive – Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elmstreet (2010)
  • Two-Face, insane district attorney who blames Batman for killing his love, Rachel Dawes – The Dark Knight (2008)

The Nemesis
A Nemesis is an enemy that was created by the Hero’s own actions. In other words, if it wasn’t for the hero, this villain wouldn’t even exist (or at least wouldn’t be an evil do’er.) The nemesis is often the mirror opposite of the hero, and a representation of how the Hero could’ve turned out under different pressures, environment or circumstances.
Examples:

  • Grendel’s Mother, the angry monster that destroyed the hall and pursued Beowulf after the hero killed her son – Beowulf
  • Draco Malfoy,Harry rejects his offer of friendship and their mutual antagonism is born – JK Rowling’s Harry Potter
  • Gollum, Bilbo Baggins finds the Ring and takes it for his own, and Gollum afterwards pursues it for the rest of his life – Tolkein’s The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings
  • Sheriff of Nottingham, the heroic outlaw steals from the rich and gives to the poor; the unscrupulous sheriff is in assiduous pursuit – Robin Hood
  • Lex Luthor – a young Clark Kent attempts to save his friend from a laboratory explosion, but the chemicals create power-mad evil genius – Superman Comics

The Psychotic
Villains who have no clear motivation, other than they are just deranged, insane or mentally ill, can be especially frightening. Their violent actions are written off to a psychotic nature, meaning there’s no rhyme or reason for the chaos they create. This unpredictable behavior creates chilling suspense. And, of course, a back story will reveal a more sophisticated character,
Examples:

  • Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist who leads a double life as a cannibalistic serial killer – Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon & Silence of the Lambs
  • Norman Bates, a mild mannered motel clerk who stabs women to death while wearing his mother’s clothing – Robert Bloch’s Psycho (and of course Hitchock’s classic movie)
  • Bob Ewell, drunkard, abusive father who accuses Tom Robinson of raping his daughter – Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird (and of course the classic movie)
  • Frank Booth, a sociopathic gangster with split personalities who begs to be gagged with a piece of blue velvet cloth – Blue Velvet (1986)
  • Anton Chigurh, a psychopathic hitman who gives his victims a second chance by flipping a coin and letting fate decide if he should spare them or not – Cormac McCarthey’s No Country for Old Man
  • Alex, a sociopath who thoroughly enjoys robbing, raping, and murdering, and is puzzled by those who want to reform him  – Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange
  • Jack Torrence, An alocholic with anger issues becomes possessed and terrorizes his family – Stephen King’s The Shining
  • John Doe, Serial killer who chooses victims according to the Seven Deadly Sins – Se7en (1995)
  • John Ryder, a hitchhiker with a sadistic drive for killing everyone and anyone he comes across in his ultimate quest to find the right person to murder him – The Hitcher (1986)
  • The Joker, maniacal, clown faced psychopath with a warped, sadistic sense of humor – Batman comics & films